The article was written by Kelechi Udoagwu
Artificial intelligence is a broad term that covers three areas: deep learning, machine intelligence, and machine learning. Machine learning, the most common of the three, focuses on machines and the data they use to teach themselves. You feed the machine with data and the algorithms enable it to learn; becoming smarter as new data is introduced. This is becoming more important by the minute because of the amount of complex data that is now available in the world.
However, whenever people talk about “artificial intelligence,” something comes to mind that has very little to do with small businesses. The concept is often attributed to large corporations and sounds rather impersonal, a little too impersonal for small businesses that thrive on relationships — with customers, employees, and even vendors. Small business owners always want their people to have direct access to them, they always want to feel connected to whomever comes in contact with their business. But artificial intelligence (AI) does not fit into this mold. Many times, it seems aloof, like a distant relative with whom you have an ice-cold relationship. But it shouldn’t be like that.
Yes, artificial intelligence seems too expensive and out-of-reach for small businesses to adopt and many small business owners just don’t have sufficient cognizance of its possible applications to their business. However, with AI algorithms becoming more commoditized and pre-trained machine learning models becoming more democratized, small business owners now have the access that they did not have some years ago. They can now build models customized for their processes and AI solutions that not only help grow their revenue, but also improve workflow.
Understanding Process Automation
Process automation is simply the use of technology-enabled solutions to improve business processes, service delivery or to drive down cost. One of the major techniques for delivering this is Robotic Process Automation.
Robotic Process Automation, according to the Institute For Robotic Process Automation, is the “application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a ‘robot’ to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”
WorkFusion’s RPA Express, a free enterprise-grade software, takes the limits off your operation’s productivity by allowing you to integrate core systems and automate transactions. With a feature called the RPA Recorder, you can record your workflow, from data entry to completing forms and timecards. The software also lets you move work between bots and people and integrate manual inputs with WorkSpace, a user interface that brings human judgment into automation.
However, a higher level software is the SPA, Smart Process Automation. It performs far more complex processes and can manage exceptions, it can run several more bots and has the capacity for more users, it can automate, and audit data from multiple sources, multiple applications, and digitized documents such as invoices.
As a small business owner looking to reduce the manual workload of your employees and give more strategic positions, process automation is a big advantage. It lets your employees move up from performing menial tasks to executing a strategy that will move the business forward a lot faster.
Understand and Predict Customer Behavior
Thanks to the proliferation of SaaS products, small businesses now have access to tonnes of first-party data that they can use to build and train machine learning models. The bulk of this data is on their clients and customers. These data points could include the number of times a customer has bought a particular product, how often they use their credit card at a store, how many times they have interacted with your business digitally – social media, Yelp, Google Search, etc.
Armed with this knowledge of specific customers, small businesses can then tailor their services to fit their customers’ habits using machine learning. They can know how best to reach and relate to customers or potential customers online, know when to offer them promos and discounts, and so on.
With time, small business owners will become more acquainted with artificial intelligence tools and software that are specifically designed for them. They will see that there is so much more that artificial intelligence can do for them — it can help prevent fraud and even improve product recommendation both for them and for their customers.
About Kelechi Udoagwu
Kelechi Udoagwu is an Accra-based Nigerian tech entrepreneur/consultant, presenter, advocate, student and writer.